This is just sad. Tom Brady is far from the first athlete to hang on way too long and end his career in embarrassment, but he’s definitely the most pronounced in the modern era. Some of us are old enough to vividly remember Michael Jordan’s days with the Washington Wizards, or Emmitt Smith wearing an Arizona Cardinals uniform — or **shudder** Jerry Rice on the Seahawks.
Hanging it up is profoundly difficult. It’s something JP Acosta discussed last week when Andrew Luck discussed walking away from football. Still, Buccaneers vs. 49ers was the saddest, most pathetic outing of Brady’s career, and it really underscored what a bad decision coming back in 2022 was.
The move to return after retiring will always be steeped in mystery. Was this simply an aging player who couldn’t handle walking away? An ego move after being annoying that Adam Schefter scooped his retirement? Or perhaps something more contrived, based on the weird rumors behind Brady making a power move to join the Dolphins, which were halted when Brian Flores filed his suit against Miami and the NFL — which put too much heat on the team to execute the move.
In the end it’s not really important. We can only evaluate what we have in front of us, and that’s a sad, past-his-prime Tom reminding us of the cruel march of time, each and every week. The only part that makes this difficult is that the pain is entire self-induced. Tom could have walked away after 2020 a Super Bowl champion. There was absolutely nothing left to prove in the NFL. Instead he decided to keep pushing for more rings, like a greedy dragon tending to his hoard of gold — forcing out Bruce Arians as Buccaneers’ head coach in the process so he could have as little friction as possible in another year.
Now Tampa Bay are in serious threat of losing the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers, who traded away their best offensive player (Christian McCaffrey) in an effort to tank and are now winning in spite of their mediocre offensive roster with Sam Darnold at quarterback.
That’s not how this is supposed to happen. A Tom Brady team isn’t supposed to ever be a laughing stock, but when you lose ___ to a 49ers team with Brock Purdy at QB it’s going to happen.
This has been a tremendous year for rich, influential people to shoot themselves in the crotch with their own gun. Brady now joins the throngs of foolish millionaires/billionaires on the short list for 2022. There is zero reason Brady needed to return in 2022, other than hubris. He has a ring for every finger, and then some — plus a seven-figure broadcasting deal just waiting for him whenever he decides to leave football. Instead he decided to come back, get hit every week.
Nobody really expected the Buccaneers to beat the 49ers this week. San Francisco’s defense is too good, and skilled in all the right ways to diffuse the Tampa Bay offense. What we didn’t expect was Brady to look totally lost. He finished throwing FIFTY FIVE TIMES for 253 yards, a touchdown and an interception. A 4.6 YPA is unrcontionable on a team with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Julio Jones — but here we are.
I’d say the decision to return by Brady will be scrutinized forever, but it won’t. This season will fade into mediocrity and Brady’s 2022 will be a footnote as he joins the ranks of the sad players who just didn’t know when to hang it up. I don’t like Brady, but this isn’t how his career should end — and yet, I absolutely don’t want to see him try again in 2023.
Winner: The Philadelphia damn Eagles
First team in the playoffs deserves some props, and the Eagles have locked in their place. This wasn’t one of those easy “walk in” games to decide their playoff fate — the Giants are a damn good team this season, and Philly embarrassed them.
Here’s what I love about the 2022 Eagles: Try to find a discernible weakness, I dare you. This is one of the best, most complete football teams we’ve seen in years. I love everything Nick Siriani and co. are doing, and to cap it all off this was an organization you’d probably look at before the draft and say “they’re 8-9, at best.” Right now they’re playing above their ability on paper, made it through their success-based slump, and came out the other side fighting harder than ever.
It’s going to be very difficult for any team, either in the NFC or AFC to unseat Philly this year. They’re just that damn good.
Loser: The Vikings’ confidence
Minnesota should be flying high after a big signature win over the Jets — and yet the Vikings have never looked weaker. The Lions are a good team, make no mistake, but when you’re in the position Minnesota is you really should be dominating these kind of games.
The issue I have with the Vikings moving forward is purely defensively. This team doesn’t look comfortable in its 3-4 base, even with the majority of the season in the rear view, and the secondary just got absolutely exposed by Jared Goff. What happens when you face a better QB in the conference, or an offense that is better suited to target weaknesses, rather than a generic “fast attack” option?
From Week 1 I had wavering faith in the Vikings, and that really hasn’t changed. It’s more pronounced now than ever, and I don’t know where this team goes in the playoffs.
Winner: Steve Wilks
The Panthers’ interim head coach is doing as good a coaching job as anyone in the NFL. Not only did Carolina beat the Seahawks on Sunday and keep their hilarious playoffs hopes alive, but Wilks helped snap the Panthers’ nine game losing streak on the road.
His ability to make an otherwise mediocre roster swing way above its weight class is beyond impressive, and the Panthers have a very real chance at making the playoffs in the hilariously bad NFC South.
Whether Wilks is retained or not, teams in need of a coach really need to be looking at him in 2023, should the Panthers be stupid enough not to retain him.
Loser: The Chiefs’ Super Bowl prospects
Kansas City won, so that’s a thing — but the win on Sunday over the Broncos was far from convincing. This is one of those games the Chiefs will want back, but it really exposed the team’s weaknesses, specifically facing teams that boast a strong secondary.
Patrick Mahomes is still the best QB in the NFL as far as I’m concerned, but he was really befuddled by the defense looks the Broncos threw at him. A close win isn’t cause for concern, unless it’s against one of the worst teams in the entire NFL.
I’m not nearly as sold on the Chiefs as I was a week ago in the AFC, and they have me looking at them much more like the Vikings than a bonafide world-beater.
Winner: The NFC East
Thanks to the Panthers the entire NFC East is back in the playoffs following Seattle’s loss. I’m not sure this is hold, but I don’t think anybody saw this coming prior to the season. It feels like the early 2000s all over again, and I’m a sucker for nostalgia.
Winner: The dumbest touchdown of 2022
I love football.